Shattered

Bleep Bleep Bleep… The alarm goes off and you almost can’t believe it, you only fell asleep about an hour ago. Peeling your lead laden eyes open, you gradually start to become aware of your aching, stiff and tired joints. Are they as painful as the day before? Has the flare up finally ended? Or am I facing a day of being employee and housewife, but with the added bonus of my body feeling like it has the flu? You rise. You take heavy pain relief, which makes you even more tired. You drink coffee. You tell yourself “it’s ok, I’m fine”.

A few years ago I got a sore neck and the odd aching shoulder, I was tired all the time and everyone laughed because I was always first to go home after a social gathering. I took myself off to the doctors thinking I’d maybe contracted some kind of niggling virus, or perhaps my flu jag hadn’t quite worked, and I was being attacked thanks to another Scottish winter. My lovely doctor was convinced it was neither and after a battery of tests and various drug trial and error situations, she diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. This was for sure going to have to be a google moment.

Typing it into the screen and coming across, at first, the NHS web advisory page it certainly did seem to fit my symptoms but I was struck by how so many websites seemed to think it was linked to the mind. In fact, it seemed like some were even implying it was all in the mind a sort of psychosomatic illness, “I wish” I thought, as I swallowed another handful of bone numbing pills. There was a tone of information and most of it was pretty similar. Fatigue? Sleep. Pain? Drugs. Anxiety? More drugs.

I couldn’t believe this was all there was to offer and I looked to the incredibly mad world of social media to see if I knew anyone else who was struggling with this agony. Apparently I knew loads, all with varying degrees of the same illness. Some who, like me, worked and just muddled through; and then there were others who were either home or wheelchair bound. All describing so many of the symptoms that I had previously felt but many also able to point me in the direction of online support and help.

I’ve tried the gym, yoga, meditation, watching my weight, alcohol intake and I’ve tried a million different herbal potions. At times these help and the gym especially gives me strength; but imagine the disappointment of knowing that, without warning, a gym session can also send a signal to the brain to flare up. It’s extremely frustrating.

I once heard someone say they don’t believe fibromyalgia exists, in fact if you try to get certain disability benefits it can’t be used as an actual registered disability; and yet the ramifications of this illness are very real.

The symptoms for me are as follows:

Fatigue

Chronic pain

Sleep problems

Anxiety

Joints popping and cracking

Twitching/spasmodic movements

Sensitivity to hugs and human touch

Inexplicable fevers

Yup see… it sounds like the flu. I once heard the phrase “if you see a fiver in the street but you let it go then you have the flu”. Yet Fybro sufferers can feel like that daily and still go to work, manage the school run, cook the dinners, be sociable and simply exist like nothings wrong. When beautiful people in my life ask if I’m in pain, on impulse I usually say “no, I’m fine”. In fact on some days I’m so sick of my own voice I even say “yeah I’m good, great actually”, when the truth is that I’m so utterly exhausted I could hide under a duvet and cry. You feel like a moaning faced, crabbit burden and really like there’s no escape.

People have said to me “oh it could be much worse at least you don’t have (insert medical illness of choice) and that’s a terrible thing to have”. Well yes I’m sure it’s horrific, but are we so intolerant of the suffering of others that instead of being kind, we almost apply a notion of guilt? The other most used phrase I hear comes in the form of “oh my word you’re addicted to painkillers, you take them all the time”, now maybe that’s true I practically exist on them but it’s not because I’m addicted but really it’s so my wrists aren’t so sore that I can open the milk, to pour into the coffee, that keeps me awake… that kind of thing. So now you see why I quite often say “yup I’m fine, good, great, over the moon”!

Now don’t get me wrong it’s not always like this, I’m in the middle of a flare up that’s lasted over a week but I know it will end, and I know I can beat it. I’m loved, supported and cared for but the fact of the matter is the bills need paid, the messages need bought and the dinners need made. That’s life. If you’re suffering and you’ve landed on my blog looking for support then please take heart. Yoga, the gym and mindfulness has been hugely helpful to me. Try it. Speak to your loved ones and tell them that your not coping, yeah they may be a bit frustrated and they might not always say the right thing but they’ll want to see you better and you’ll feel more relaxed for being honest. If you’ve never told anyone about your condition be brave and ask friends, you’ll be surprised. Speak to your boss, get information to help them support you. If you’re at home and you’re tired, sleep. If your in pain with the cold weather, wear something cosy. If you need pain relief take some.

As for me I’m off to get through my day. I’ll smash work, I’ll try some exercise at home, I’ll get to aldi and I’ll make the mince…. How will I be tomorrow? Maybe I’ll be shattered or maybe, just maybe, it will have gone completely and I really will be “fine”.

The Black Dog

I’ve posted about anxiety and poor mental health a million times. I’ve watched it almost swallow up my mum, my sister and many of my friends. Sadly, I’ve even lost friends to this vicious disease that can rob you of your very joy. However, I’m back again, just for a moment.

Since stress almost killed me, I’ve learned more about it’s causes and cures than most professionals. I’ve used yoga, diet and found myself knee deep in some fabulous books, which in turn have given me some wonderful tools but right now “it” seems to be back.

“It” is called many things but my boss James calls “it” the black dog. It follows you around wherever you go and sometimes you can shake it off, lock it in a cadge and yet sometimes “it” finds you. Following you about and causing you to always look over your shoulder, wondering if it’s going to pounce. For me, there is no permanent cure but what I know for sure is there are ways to manage it.

But before we look at the cure let’s examine the cause shall we? The answer for me is that there is none. My life is pretty wonderful, I’ve a wonderful partner that I’ve waited all my life for, amazing children and the best friends and family on Gods green earth. However I also have stresses, I’m setting up a new business and changing my work life up, I’ve two kids with very specific needs, a mammy who is also a poor wee precious and just like everyone else I have strains which aren’t for sharing on the social media, but none the less they matter to me.

Everyone has a story like this, and sometimes when you share it people will say “ahh but it could be worse” and they’re quite right it could be; but now instead of feeling fear and worry, add to that the concrete weight of guilt that you don’t “deserve” to be anxious, because yes there is someone worse off than you. How wrong this is, it doesn’t matter if your worried because your cat is sick or because you’re on the verge of losing your home or job; your worries are yours. They matter to YOU.

It’s a funny thing is anxiety, in my “learnings” I’ve discovered Endogenous Depression”. Which really means low mood, feeling sad and down, mostly due to outside stressors. One of the symptoms is feeling absolutely fine as the day goes on, in fact feeling wonderful by the evening, but by the morning feeling like facing the world is just as tough as an Everest hike.

Who has had the following:

Wanting to wake up and have a great day but instead felt like your stomach is in a vice and “daytime” brings too much fear?

Who has wanted to just stay in bed cosy rather than take on the world?

Who has cried just because they’re not “good enough”?

Who has thought that life is scary?

You? Me too!

Don’t worry it’s happened to so many people and stop worrying that you you’re an ungrateful madam because you’ve “two nice holidays booked and a new car on the way”. Never let anyone tell you how to feel, your worries are relevant. My mum once said that if someone breaks their leg no one tells them “oh stop moaning, you have another one”. They are simply saddened by the pain of the break. She also said that no one ever says “why have you broken your leg? You’ve a lovely family, nice car and plenty of money?” They, again, simply feel empathy for the pain. She is wise is my mum.

So is it all doom and gloom? No. Is it all sadness and no understanding? No. There is much you can do. I’m not a psychologist, I’m just a girl who’s tried a lot. I’ve shared before what works for me, walking, talking, reading and routine. However, I’m really fortunate to have some friends who totally get this and who I can text or call in a heartbeat. They tell me to breath, they make me laugh, then send me super encouraging DMs and they just let me be until it passes.

Maybe you’ve never encountered the Black Dog and this all seems very dramatic; or maybe you’ve never suffered from it all but still want to support someone you love. I read once, in one of my MANY books that sometimes all we can do is just “be”. Sometimes all we can say is “I’m sorry you’re sad and I can’t fix this, but I’ll walk beside you”. When I used to encounter poor mental health in those close to me, I would take it personally, what had I done to make them so sad? The stark reality is that this isn’t about you, you didn’t break the leg nor did you cause the mind to shatter. Just be while they gather themselves back together. Sit in silence. Walk beside them. Make tea.

One of my favourite quotes in the world is from the movie The Help and the maid tells the little girl every day “You is Kind. You is smart. You is important”. You are!! YOU are someone’s friend, YOU are someone’s reason to smile. YOU are someone’s mum. YOU are someone’s shoulder to cry on. YOU are the only person like you and you are important.

My boss is currently working on an issue which absolutely splits the west of Scotland. He has spoken out against, domestic abuse, mental health discrimination and much more; but now he is pouring himself into tackling sectarianism and I can see his own mental health suffer. He is giving so much of himself to what he believes that while his heart is open to change, it is also open to hurt. I dedicate this blog to him, a man who has never been shy about discussing his own poor mental health but who also gives me the opportunity to heal when I’m struggling with mine.

So if you’ve reached the end of my musings, I hope you have a wonderful day. I hope the knot in your tummy has slackened and I hope you are able to look in the mirror and say I am important. If you are worrying about a loved one, just be, find patience and love them like the sun rises and sets on them. What fixes me the most is feeling so loved, but more so finding a way to so love myself.

“I think the saddest people always try to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that” – Robin Williams

To Forgive Divine

As I sit looking at my Christmas tree I’m thinking about people, loneliness, isolation and what causes so many people to end up “alone”. Christmas is a time where we spend a lot of our thinking time and reminiscing, and many of those memories involve people who are no longer in our lives. Some have left because they’ve passed away, some may have just drifted on to a new life and some may be missing because there was, or is, a rift too deep to bridge. I think the later are the hardest of all to bear.

In my last blog I spoke of real love, of love in a romantic notion and the power that it has when we just accept the good with the bad. Truly that’s what forgiveness can entail, accepting the good with the bad; but it can also mean forgiving hurts that have cut so deep it feels like wounds that will never heal. When you’re a little kid and you get a scab your mum will say “don’t pick at that…” and there’s a good reason too, the more you pick at it, the deeper the wound will be and ultimately the more scarred you will become. It’s the same with hurt, the more we look back at it the more we damage our own hearts. That’s where the magic of forgiveness comes in, it frees you and let’s the scab fall off.

So I hear you say “but I’ve been so wronged, they’ve ruined my life, I could have been someone else, I could have had more….”. Could’a, should’a, would’a; the reality is we don’t control the past, we don’t even have control over those who wrong us but we do have control over how we react to it all. Do we go back to the wound daily, creating a deep emotional scar? Or do we say “it is forgiven” and move along, living our best lives? Forgiveness, comes in many guises and there is some forgiveness which is offered from the heart and will never be heard by the recipient, we will never understand why it happened to us but we allow ourselves to be free. There are people who you may never want to set eyes on ever again, but by releasing them from your heart you create space for new things, and new love.

Then there is “daily forgiveness”, falling out with a friend or someone you love, quite often because both parties feel somewhat aggrieved. I’ve lost so many friendships and gained them back, simply because I chose to recognise I needed their forgiveness; and at the times someone bugs me or feels disposable, that’s when I remember the most those who have forgiven me. I had to exercise such patient yesterday, someone had irked me, and then I realised there was no hurt or intent in their actions. Clumsy? Yes. Did it need my twenty minute silent treatment? Possibly not. So I text saying “we cool?”. We were. I instantly felt better.

Life is incredibly short and can feel pretty tough at times. Most people have felt abandoned or lost, under appreciated, used and, sadly, abused. I want to share with you a story of my brother, he wasn’t “ours”, his mam wasn’t able to do what most Mammy’s can and his young life was broken in many ways; so he came to us and he was “ours” from the minute he walked through the door, or alternatively I was his from the minute they took me home on Christmas Eve. If you ask my brother about his mammy he will never ever utter a word against her or her little heart. Many would have felt abandoned and lost, but he forgave her with the most willing of hearts; in return my brother is the most loving, honest and caring man you will ever meet. His forgiveness is spectacular, as is his soul and we are all the better for learning from him.

I am not right with everyone in my life, there are bridges that could be mended and maybe some hurts that I need to let go of. I have one friend in particular that I miss dearly and I know it needs fixing, and that’s the hardest part about forgiveness. Sometimes you need to ask for it, even if you feel aggrieved in doing so.

My sister once told me “that offering forgives when you least expect it will change your life immeasurably”. There is never a truer word said. I thought my best pal in the world hated me at school. I asked her to forgive me. Now we she is more solid to me than the oaks that stand the toughest winds. My life is enriched by both proffering and receiving forgiveness. Sometimes you don’t even have to offer the words out loud, sometimes you just have to close your eyes and let it all go….

It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year, and if you want to offer a really special gift think about forgiveness. Right a wrong with someone who maybe does, or doesn’t deserve it. Close the wounds and enjoy the freedom it brings.

I will leave you with my three favourite forgiveness quotes:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.

Love cannot survive without forgiveness and forgiveness cannot be offered without love.

Forgiveness is not an attribute of the weak, only the strong can forgive.

All my love

Rosa

What Does Love Look Like?

This year I’ve not been blogging quite so much I’ve been busy falling in love and trying to find out what who I am as part of a “couple”. Falling in love is amazing isn’t it? Those butterflies that you get when you meet, the idea that anything is possible and that finally all your hopes and dreams have been realised. Right? Wrong! It’s like that for maybe the first wee while, and then the reality hits that we are all flawed and fundamentally love isn’t an object that just exists, but it’s more like a living thing that has to be nurtured, fed and watered in order to survive.

I’m pretty cynical when it comes to love. Perhaps being divorced before I was 26 and then being dumped, just before the bells on midnight, is enough to put any gal in a state of constant “when’s he leaving(ness)”. Although, bizarrely, I still have the child like notion that love comes on a white horse, sweeps you off your feet and suddenly you have someone in your life to put the bins out. Disclaimer: I have a lovely neighbour Martin who puts my bins oot, but yanno a girl would like her man to take a turn (my aim isn’t high).

We all want the instalove. Hand holding photos, cooked meals together, trips, with dirty faced but adorable moppets, to the seaside, Autumnal walks with the dog and all the other “ideas of love” which make it onto the gram. However the reality of falling in love in your thirties plus is pretty different. Lives are well and truly established, mixed families tend to create new boundaries, demanding careers are already firmly in place, parents are ageing and life is already so full that even getting five minutes to look at Instagram together seems like a treat, as for that autumnal walk in the woods? Send me a postcard.

Don’t get me wrong there are moments in my new found love life which have taken my breathe away. Trips to Milan, drives in the setting sun and dinners which would make your heart melt (food is clearly a big love thing for me). These moments are magical, but they’re fleeting and what I’ve learned is that romance is when two people find a way, within extraordinary pressure, to put the other first. Sometimes that love is uncomfortable, it doesn’t feel like the movies and you certainly might not think it’s worth writing home about; but for me that’s the real love. It takes a lot to tell those around you that life will change and that they will have to adjust to the “new version of you”. People find comfort in keeping you the way you are, because that makes them comfortable. Parents, friends, children; they all like us to be stagnant because it feels secure; but when we fall in love we have to be willing to shake up the playing field and change the rules.

It can be frightening, but people adjust. Eventually. I once told someone that taking care of someone when it’s easy is “nice”, but taking care of someone when everything is against you that’s “love”. For anyone who’s followed my social media for a while you know how much I advocate “reality”. I’ve written many a humours blog about dating and raising bratty (but beautiful) weans. So you will all know that all I’ve ever wanted was to find real love and have “family”. What I’m learning is that what love is, is slightly different to what I thought it would be.

Romance now is adjusting your work day to fit in a coffee. It’s telling others that your life has changed, and that while you still love them, they have to catch up. It’s sharing your cupboard space and giving up clean, seat down, loos. It’s making sure there is always “cola” available. It’s trying to understand when love can’t be there, even when you think it should. It’s learning to bend your own rigid life style. It’s taking yourself outside your comfortable box. It’s declaring to the world that “this person is mine” even if the world has something to say about it.

Who doesn’t want Paris and flowers? Diamond and holidays? Bags and shoes? Opened doors? Chairs pulled out? Actually????? I don’t think most people do. I think what we all want from love is very simple, well at least for me it is. It’s someone to come home to. It’s sacrificial. It’s someone who can weather a difficult journey. It’s someone who catches you when you fall. It’s someone who sees the best in you. The thing about Diamonds is that they can be lost, and flowers can die but respecting someone, adoring someone and treating them with a kind heart; well that never loses its shine.

My final, little but worthy, bit of wisdom is slightly selfish for a love blog. Love yourself. Imagine you’re the most amazing human being on the planet, then picture yourself as a little child sitting a lone, lonely on a step. Ask yourself “what kind of love would I expect for that beautiful little person?” I’m sure your answer would be, only the best. If we love ourselves enough to expect the best then we will be much more able to give that kind of love in return. You are already good enough, if you have children then you already have family – so the cake is already made, it’s just waiting for the cherry on the top. Love yourself and expect nothing less than butterflies.

I dedicate this to Peter. To our journey. To our good times, and our bad. To beating the odds together. To adjusting even when it’s hard. To Celino’s. To growing. To loving each other. Always.

Where has she been?

The atmosphere has felt thick and heavy all week, almost like Scotland has forgotten where it sits on the map and has moved to a more tropical latitude. The weather has been sunny and warm, and lots of people seem to be happier, more positive and feeling a little more invincible; that’s why it’s surprised me that I’ve spent the week feeling just a little “uneasy”. I suppose there are periods in life when it swings like a pendulum and I’ve read that the moveable, changing state is probably the most comfortable place to be, but I can’t help but think that periods of real highs can often lead to those dippy “tummy churning lows”.

I’ve not blogged for a while, I think over the winter when I was convalescing from “stroke-gate” there didn’t seem like much to write about; and as a matter of fact, I took the time to read and learn. I suffered from anxiety so severe I would have horrific tummy pain and only being sick would settle me. My MO when I’m stressed would be to walk away, to hide in my bedroom on the “third floor” and to try and avoid people. I wouldn’t just avoid strangers, my loved ones would also be pushed aside and only the brave one or two would be able to pull me out of my dark mental place. Stress and anxiety didn’t just rob me of happiness it left a physical imprint on me so severe I couldn’t eat, speak or walk. It feels comfortable to stay with what you know, and hiding in darkness is almost as cosy as working at being something new; but I no longer had a choice. I either pulled myself out of the mire or I sank completely.

As many of you will know from my dating and comedic blogs, I took myself off on a little trip to Italy and I spent hours alone. I prayed, I walked and most of all I was silent in my own company. I took several books including one entitled “how to be a badass?” and I also took my bible. Quite the combo and shockingly both had a profound and deep impact on me. So why had I become so unwell? Was it sexual harassment at the council or Holyrood? Was it the incessant need to fit in with who I thought politics, and the media, wanted me to be? Was it the stress and strain of having two children with profound and definite needs? Was it having poorly parents? Was it that feeling of constant rejection from men who said they loved me? Was it being alone? Was it being lonely? The shocking reality was that it was all and none of these things. While these issues had caused deep and damaging stress in my life, I still hadn’t fully learned to manage the impact; but more than that I hadn’t learned to accept that none of these things were my fault. Then one day I was standing on a mountain in Tuscany, I had driven there using an old school map, in a fiat 500 in one of the scariest roads in the world and I did it on my own, I was enough. There were no loud noises, no bright lights and no one there to hear it; but I knew then and there that if I loved myself so hard, and loved others the same amount everything would be better, and eventually they would be brilliant.  I came home from that trip and I was truly a new person. Yes, I had opinions and yes I still wanted to change the world somewhat but I gave a hundred less shits about what people thought, unless those people were the ones willing to come to the “third floor” in my darkest moments and pull me back into the light.

Mental health and its manifestation can be different for everyone. I’m not suddenly some sort of genius who is happy all the time (see opening paragraph). I’m just a person who decided that life would be easier with a little more joy, a lot more love and a massive amount of tools which help when the lows get low. So what actually does work? I go to the gym and eat better, not all the time, but enough that my body is well. I yoga a lot and read books which in the past I would have thrown scorn on. I spend a lot of time in silence and in prayer, and with people who are like me, people who really love me. I’ve confronted a situation which caused not just me, but several other women, hurt and harm, and I would do it again; because allowing someone to hurt me without consequence was destroying my peace. However, I also have a deep forgiveness for that man; I will never speak to him or be in his company but I do wish him no ill or harm. I hope his life is happier. Forgiveness frees your heart. I continued to be me with my strong opinions on fairness, social justice and equality, only now I recognised that when I anger people with my opinions, that’s not me, it’s only my opinions. I will never ever change or be silenced on these subjects; ever. I write down lists of gratitude constantly, especially for my amazing girls. I “be” with family as often as possible and spend a huge amount of time with my sister who makes me laugh. I also spend a massive amount of time with my friends who are some of the fiercest and funny women you will ever meet, especially my big Karen. Karen is a woman who has taught me more about not “giving a shit” than any other human being I know, while at the same time also showing me deep and unwavering kindness. I’ve also allowed myself to fall in love, and while I still question what he sees in me, learning to love myself means I manage to be thankful for this beautiful man who loves me so ferociously. He is truly the man I will spend my forever with. Finally, I have deepened my faith to the point where I understand that if God is for me then nothing can be against me. Faith, however, makes things possible not easy.

So you’re probably reading my ramblings and wondering why if “she has all these tools” is she so down this week? The answer is that I don’t know, busy week ahead, a tough week past and maybe just feeling a little bit out of sorts because there are lots of new things happening; to be honest I just don’t know. What I do know is that instead of hiding on the third floor and avoiding the world. I got out of bed, put on some music, drove to Starbucks and decided to write this piece.

Last week I was in the car with my friends and we saw a man by the side of the road. He had taken 32 paracetamols; he wanted to die because both his parents were also dead and he “had no one to love him”. Suicide is so prevalent at the moment, and it doesn’t matter who you are it can steal the rich to the young men across our industrial towns; we have to do more. You can go into a shop and buy something shiny and new, but psychologists say you will feel low again within hours; however, if you hug someone you strengthen your immune system, treat stress and anxiety, release dopamine (the feel good hormone) and so many other amazing things. So the moral of the story is that loving harder is the greatest of all the tools.

My sister Caroline has suffered from poor mental health in recent years, and often at times I have blamed her for this because she gives so much of herself to loving others. I thought that was the cause, but it wasn’t, but allowing and supporting her to do that was the cure. To this day she still suffers and more often than not it’s when her emotional resources have been all used up; but my job is simply to love her harder to allow her to be the best version of herself. That version is a woman with a servants heart and a wise mind. A woman who has never let me completely drown. A woman who is simply made up of love. For these reasons, I dedicate this blog to sweet Caroline and all those who need to know it’s ok not to be ok. We are only here to be one thing and that is the best version of ourselves, the version which is more than good enough, love yourself first and everything else will get better. I promise.

Single. Mother. Survivor.

The words “single parent” often strike an instant image into your mind. What do you see? A mum with lot’s of kids living off of social security contributions? A dad who has lost his wife to illness and is just holding it all together? Do you see an image of pity? Do you feel love and compassion? Or, if you’re honest, do you feel scornful and judgemental?

I remember growing up as the youngest daughter of a 2.4, 1980’s, small C conservative family and thinking I had it all. Yes, my dad worked away all the time, and yes my mum was so ill with depression that she couldn’t even get out of her bed every day; but they were together right? So yes, I had it all. I often looked at the kids in my class who had to go to their dads every second Sunday with real pity in my heart; “look at that sad soul, bet they wished they could lie in their own bed watching Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade with their mum and dad downstairs making breakfast”. Now, I’m not sure where this idea came from because I was never allowed to stay in my bed on a Sunday, and rarely was my mother able to rise from her poor mental health to make me some sort of Walton’s style breakfast; but there you have it, even at primary age I was judging the children and parents from lone parent families.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties and picture a young mum with a five year old, a two year old, a Louis Vuitton handbag and no money; sitting in a housing office in Wishaw desperately seeking somewhere to live. Just a home of my own to raise my children. There were no houses, well none where I thought I should be living, but thankfully I was given housing benefit and sold enough of what I had to secure myself a private tenancy in a two bedroom ex-council flat. You should have seen this flat, it was all mustard kitchens, mint green bathrooms and swirly carpets; a far cry from my four bed semi and Audi supporting driveway. I had, overnight,  become a single mum living in a scheme. That’s how quickly it happened, and I was still judging, judging myself, judging my life and judging my future.

I had two choices in that period I could become the label and just lay down to it “single mum, no work, no life” or I could fight. I could beg to work on TV shows for whatever they paid, I could borrow enough money from my dad to start an online company which would let me work and parent, I could accept the small amounts of benefits I was owed which would often stop us from starving till the end of the month. I could survive. I could ignore the millions of voices giving me “sound advice” (which is more often than not from someone who lives in a two income house and who’s never had to sell said “Louis Vuitton” handbag on ebay). I could make being a single mum fabulous.

Don’t get me wrong there are moments when its far from fabulous; a lot of lone parents hear this phrase from coupled up friends “seriously though, at least you get a break at the weekend”. That’s right because I don’t spend the weekends catching up with the millions of chores which society sees as “mans work”, cleaning the car, changing all the broken light bulbs and sorting the mountains of bills. I also don’t spend my weekends missing my children and the chatter that comes from “normal” family life….. Think about that. People tend to forget that when you’re a lone parent, and maybe even a parent with a spouse who is working or living away from home, you never get a break. I’ll give you an example, last night child two had a fever, she was up all night and there was no one to hand the reigns to. I had no one to say “could you run and get her some water to take these paracetamols with”, no, I had to run gazelle-like down two flights of stairs while shouting “there there beautiful girl, I’ll be back in two seconds” while simultaneously trying not to break my neck in the jet black night. I get that not all partners are useful in these situations, but often even knowing there is another grown up gazelle-like runner in your home, well it just helps. I got up this morning, I washed my face, I pulled on some very strange clothes and I got my ass to work. Why? Because not only am I the carer, but I am the sole provider and I blooming love it.

I could lament about being a single mammy for hours, I’ve not even got on to the subject of “finding love”. If you have children you will never hear a more loaded question than “Who do you live with?”. This is a grownups way of asking if you have more baggage than terminal one at Heathrow. Oh, and if you do find someone who (often by the way thinks they’re doing you a huge favour taking on your children) would like to date you, sorting your diary to suit work, life, children and romance, would make you feel like you’re the Private Secretary to Nicola Sturgeon…. “I can fit you in for two hours after dancing on the Second of March?”

Yes being a lone parent isn’t always fun and games but guess what? I’m managing not to mess up my children completely! Mad isn’t it? A woman who gets tax credits and a discount on her council tax, with two slightly eccentric but remarkably brilliant human beings, who are contributing to society before they are even old enough to move out (which they better had do because I don’t plan on running gazelle-like after them forever). It’s maybe not the way society, or my mind, thought I would raise a family but I live with a joy that I could never have obtained if I hadn’t experienced parenting on my own. I have sense of “I did that, me, look at me!”

So how did I do it? How did I survive? Yes, there is an internal feminist warrior in me, but the answer was support. I had brilliant parents, a loving sister and fantastic friends. People who saw my struggles but who took a load off; and sometimes kicked me up the bahookie and out of my self pity. There were times when my health, the kids health and the world around me would have led me to believe that giving up would be easier; that if I became invisible and believed that I , as a single parent, should achieve nothing then that would have become my reality. Goodness, aren’t I glad that wasn’t the road I travelled. When I was Councillor I was asked over and over and over, why are you into politics? Seriously? Why? The answer is simple, because I know what its like to almost sink and to feel like you are being swept up in a sea of cliches. Benefits. Poverty. Ill health. Loneliness. Fear. I didn’t, I was sent a a life raft of hope in the form of support. Now it’s my time to support others.

If you’re judging single parents because of the help they receive, be it from family or the DSS then remember my words, in ONE night it happened to me. As quickly as I was married to a financier, I was alone. If, you think you could do it better, or you would have made different choices, then that’s great you must have all your shit together; I’ve not met anyone like that as yet, but if that’s you well done. As for us single parents, we’re just like everyone else who’s trying to raise a nice rounded human being, we are only doing our best. If you see a single mammy struggling financially, emotionally or physically; instead of opening your judging mind, soften your heart and throw them a lifebelt. Could your act of kindness change one person, and in turn change the world entire? Parents come in all “shapes and sizes”. Young mums, grannies, aunties, daddies, grampas and more; with the right support every one can raise a child who can change the world.

Finally I would like to dedicate this blog to all the single mammys and daddies who have survived, and especially to my little warrior Kelly who is the epitome of fierce.  Parents who get up and play two parts in the same play. Who juggle work, life and love while often giving so much of them self that their tank is left empty. Love yourself more, judge yourself less. To all the singletons who have gone on dates with puke down their jacket shoulders and the mobile on vibrate in case of a toddler emergency, I salute you, you haven’t given up on love and love will never give up on you.

I’m signing off because my two are at their dads and I’m going to finish the housework and have a very deserved night of uninterrupted sleep!

Miracles of Love

I need a miracle.

In the last year, or maybe in my recent life, I’ve fallen into my bed many a night and asked for a miracle. Asked for Charlie and Skye to have better health, that their lives wouldn’t be filled with so many trials and tribulations. I’ve begged God, whoever he may be, to cure my mother who is deeply tortured by mental health issues. I’ve closed my eyes and asked him to let me live when I was seconds from dying. Now, I’m not sure if it was God who saved me, or if it was my ridiculously stubborn will power but here I am; just being here isn’t the miracle though I think it was the details that saved me.

When I was taken into casualty I was assigned a specialist stroke nurse who was strong willed, feisty and spoke when I couldn’t. I will never forget her whispering in my ear ‘if you take this drug you will die’; I didn’t take it and I lived. Her love, care and compassion was my lifeline in my darkest hour. There were so many micro-miracles that its hard to place them all in my foggy memories; the joiner who installed a tone of rails in my house free of charge, the food which just appeared to feed my children and the constant love which would fall on me when I would least expect it.

Earlier in the year I took a trip to Italy, I went alone and spent so much time in reflection, my wee mum is sick; she is so poorly I often wonder how she opens her eyes every day. It was in Italy during some of the quietest moments of my life that I begged for a miracle. I wanted my mum to be able to annoy me again, to tell me my fake tan was too dark, to instruct me on the art of laundry or to simply sit in my home watching me live my life. Instead of feeling miraculous the allegations of sexual harassment started to tumble out across Scotland, and while far away from everyone I loved, my own memories were swirling around my brain like a storm of dark nightmares. I started to get sick. My face started to freeze and I was miles away from home. There was a night which was so dark that I wondered how much more of life a person could take when the mountains seemed so inexplicably high. I told the young hotel owner that I would be taking to my bed for a day or so and not to worry if he didn’t see me, I explained that I had been sick and I needed a rest. At eleven that night there was a loud bang on the door and his mother instructed me to drink some holy water for my pain, it wasn’t the water that brought me back to life it was her love and kindness. The next morning when I opened the shutters I kept thinking that I had been missing the answers all along. Nothing was exactly as I had planned in my life, but being so deep in my own worry had led me to miss the amazing things that happen around me every single day. I was having my own personal pity party.

I’ve recently got to know a young mum of three, a care experienced girl who beat the system and got her degree; was married and pregnant when her world came tumbling down around her. Husband left, rent was too high, benefit cuts too deep to let her survive. My sister took this family into her heart and she told me that they would fly. Homeless, alone and with nothing. We asked for a miracle. It wasn’t a blinding light, it wasn’t a lottery win; it was Councillor Cannon making sure she got the right caseworker, it was the people of Wallacewell who wouldn’t let her sink, it was in my friends who are painting and decorating her new wee home, it was in my sister who believed in her. It was in the hope that life could be more. Those were her miracles. On Friday this girl didn’t even have food in her cupboards but on Saturday night she was thanking the world for her wonderful new life. You see, she has her eyes open to what love is.

Charlie started her hormone journey today. I sat in the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids listening to her medical history as it was read out to me, heart defects, epilepsy, diabetes, depression; and now her body is going to have to battle so hard to be what it should be anyway. Just to be who she is on the inside. As I sat I kept thinking about all the current right wing press condemning these young trans people. I thought my heart would shatter. Who would pick this? I wanted to pick her up and run, run as far as I could; but she didn’t want to run, she wanted to stand up to this and to carry on. As we walked out the hospital we passed kids, some of whom were so sick they couldn’t walk and my heart felt like it was going to explode. Wandering through the corridors with Christmas trees and cheery festive music I was sure my emotions were going to betray me, seconds from tears and my stomach in knots we walked out to see a rainbow so big and bright we both stood for ages, eventually burst out laughing. You see we cant change our problems but we can change how we react to them. We can choose to let them topple us or we can decide to make our broken moments make us stronger. Dolly Parton once famously said ‘Storms make trees take deeper roots’.

To that end I’m going to be doing something to make micro-miracles for others. James (the boss) is collecting toys for local charities but I will be collecting (and begging) for small gifts for young women just like the girl in my blog. Women who have been given so little in life but who deserve a little hope. If you could donate a small, wrapped gift for a young lady then let me know. Ill be giving them to WAVES on the Southside and to the women of Wallacewell. It’s time for me to open my eyes. If you are struggling with life, and if miracles seem like a fantasy, let someone know. People in this country are getting poorer, austerity isn’t killing the debt, its killing people; but I believe in good. I believe in hope. I believe that Jo Cox was right when she said “there is more which unites us than divides us”. If you cant donate to my precious ladies that’s ok, we all have budgets but try and give something. A hello to a grumpy neighbour, five minutes babysitting to the single mum in your street, dinner to an elderly relative; change will come of that I have no fears but until then we must look out for each other. If your give a little, even if it’s just your time, then eventually you’ll be your own miracle.

Gifts can be handed in to our Glasgow Cathcart office on Clarkston Road, or alternatively shoot me an email at rosa.zambonini@parliament.scot